5 Creative Hacks to Improve Collaboration
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5 Creative Hacks to Improve Collaboration

Consciously or not, we feel and internalize what our surrounding space tells us about how we work.

Most work spaces were designed according to an industrial labor model, from a time when our work was tied to big machines and our status was rooted in the size of our office space. Yet collaboration and creation aren’t bound to designated areas; they evolve throughout a space, absorbing different people, places, and perspectives.

Space is the “body language” of an organization. Intentional or not, the form, functionality, and finish of a space reflect the culture, behaviors, and priorities of the people within it. This suggests that a space designer is simultaneously a cultural translator and a builder. That said, space design has its own grammar that can be tweaked to bolster desirable habits.

Space is something to think of as an instrument for innovation and collaboration. It’s not just a given, or something that should be accepted as is. Space is a valuable tool that can help you create deep and meaningful collaborations in your work and life.

Teams that are mindful of space take responsibility for setting up environments that will amplify their work. The expectation is that each person is a steward of their space, and that they need to care for it and at the same time, change it if it’s not working or, better yet, hack it.

Here we present 5 hacks to enhance the collective creative juices in an organization:

1_Context Is Content

Willing to pay premium at restaurants not only for food but also the environment is an insight into understanding the impact of space into one’s experience. Space transmits culture, but environments can be used not just to represent cultural values but also to inspire them. Translating these immersive experiences to the workplace depends on the space available. Creativity is adaptive and, like anything else, when a space becomes available, work emerges to fill it. In other words, provide space for collaboration opportunities and they will follow.

2_ Start with what you have.

Starting with what you have encourages you to start small, move quickly, invest less, be visible to others, and build momentum. Energy can be wasted on overthinking where to start, have an empty office, half of a warehouse, an empty conference room? Take it and transform it. Quickly. Highlight the way your space gets used and invite others to participate. Visible signs of activity will encourage others to participate. These traces of excitement also signal new ideas.

3_ Innovation is everywhere

Pay attention to user-initiated changes and respond to them with modifications to your space. Observing and amplifying the ways in which your community already feels empowered to take control is one of the best ways to develop a collaborative environment. Look and listen for anything being used unconventionally. Every hack you uncover is an opportunity to design new ways of working in response, like supporting emerging needs in technology & communication, rethinking available resources, and emphasizing with the needs of your community.

4_ Wheels in unexpected places

Well, casters instead of wheels. Transformation of a space can be challenging when heavy or oversized furniture limits your alternatives and forces pre-establishing flows. A revolutionary alternative are casters: they will change your space. As an example, the couches create comfortable, intimate gathering spaces for teams and by adding casters you enable speedy transformation of a space to service another activity. Couches on casters reveal a cultural characteristic: the expectation and need to rapidly reconfigure dependable infrastructure, soon the experimentation will evolve on other items that you wouldn’t expect, such as walls. And while it may seem cheeky to have couches with wheels, the fact that casters in unconventional spaces can readily transform an environment is the real reason to celebrate them.

5_ Make thinking tangible

Ideas are no longer reserved for the people in charge, increasingly common are environments that promote all-inclusive expertise. A culture shift, says media theorist and futurist Paul Saffo, has happened from consumer economy to a creator culture since late 2010s. The ability to uncover, diagnose, synthesize, and respond to collective understanding as it emerges and evolves is key to effective leading amidst this creator culture. Methods to make thinking “tangible” so it can be touched stretched, understood and acted upon, are critical to identifying patterns and solving problems collectively.

Tangible thinking spaces support:

Quick visualization. Think vertical, writable surfaces and small projections.

Behavior Modeling. Get leaders and followers working in the same space, with work visible to each other.

Making, sharing, and feedback. Shape rooms around prototyping, so ideas can be embodied quickly to share with others.

Closeness, safety, and human understanding. Intimacy and connection are critical in forming trust and bonds. Quiet reflection spaces plus eye-to-eye orientation helps.


What have you implemented in your workspace to improve collaboration? Let us know in the comments below.


*Paul Saffo, “Get Ready for a New Economy”, http://www.saffo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/McKinsey-Creator.pdf February 26, 2009

Resource: Doorley, S. & Witthoft, S. (2012) Make Space. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.